These clubs have not only served a venue for member to practice ‘Then’ singing and ‘dan tinh’ (handmade gourd lute) playing but also contributed to popularising the charm of ‘Then’ practice to the community, especially young people.

According to head of the club, Ma Thi Day, in addition to maintaining regular exchanges and meetings for its members and those having a passion for ‘Then’ practice and traditional culture, the club has also successfully hosted many cultural programmes and events honouring ‘Then’ singing.

Among the clubs, Sac Cham is the biggest with 60 members. The club’s executive board includes seven members, who are in charge of managing the club’s activities in the districts of Cho Dong, Na Ri and Bach Thong, and Bac Kan City.

Members of the club have joined field trips to collect ancient ‘Then’ tunes, and organised free class to teach ‘Then’ singing and ‘dan tinh’ playing for the public.

They have also actively co-ordinated with the provincial Radio and Television to produce musical programmes and documentaries on ‘Then’ practice.

In 2021, the Bac Kan Provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism supported the establishment of four exemplary ‘Then’ singing clubs in the districts of Na Ri, Cho Don, and Bach Thong as well as Bac Kan City with each club having at least 20 members.

In 2022, the department targets to launch four more exemplary ‘Then singing clubs’ in the four remaining districts of Ba Be, Cho Moi, Ngan Son, and Pac Nam.

Currently, the province has more than 20 ‘Then’ singing clubs, with many of them designated for the elderly and children to participate in.

Director of the provincial Cultural Centre Lam Ngoc Du said that the operation of these clubs have brought fresh vitality in practicing folklore culture and art, making positive contributing to preserving and upholding the beautiful melodies of ‘Then’ and the sound of ‘dan tinh’.

The practice of ‘Then’ singing is a type of cultural ritual that integrates many forms such as music, dance, singing, poetry, literature, history, and philosophy.

‘Then’ singing, which is traditionally accompanied by ‘dan tinh’ playing, is regarded as a tune of the Gods. The style of singing is closely linked with the spiritual life of some ethnic people, who perform it during rituals to pray for things such as good health, bumper crops, and longevity.

‘Then’ is practised in many northern provinces, including Cao Bang, Bac Kan, Thai Nguyen, Lang Son, Ha Giang, Quang Ninh, Son La, Lai Chau, Lao Cai, Bac Giang and Yen Bai, and the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak.